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The Road Ahead

Years ago any mention of the 21st century brought visions of flying to work on freeways in the sky or, at the very least, moving silently along the ground in an electric car.

Neither of those vehicles will be in the average garage anytime soon. To understand what new cars Detroit and the world's other automakers are working on, CBS News Correspondent Herb Weisbaum faced his own future and that of millions of aging baby boomers.

Ford's Fred Lupton provided him with a special suit designed to mimic the physical changes and limitations of older drivers.


"The back brace is one of the main components that really slows you down when you're wearing the suit," says Lupton.

Among other things, it's got contraptions called joint restrictors to reduce the range of motion and rubber gloves that simulate a diminished sense of touch. You have to think about moving your legs and arms.

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Getting into the car was tough. Buckling up was tougher. The old neck doesn't bend like it used to.

Thinking about the needs of older drivers has already led to improvements like bigger buttons and adjustable gas and brake pedals.

And while we're getting older, our cars are getting smarter. Computers will play a big role in tomorrow's cars.

How about a car with its own Web page? Prototype technology like GM's OnStar Advisor will let you talk to your car using your home computer or even let drivers access email and the Internet while they're on the road.

"People are increasingly feeling connected in all parts of their life. This gives them the option of bringing that connectivity into a vehicle if they'd like to," says Chet Huber of OnStar.

Other onboard computers will be less obvious and will manage tricky situations better than any human driver could or document what went wrong in a crash.

A few automakers are already installing black boxes like the ones found in airliners that show exactly what was happening just before impact.

Finally, the car of the future might have two motors instead of one. Honda just started selling the Insight, the first hybrid car available in America. It's powered by a small gasoline engine and an even smaller electric motor.

Other carmakers are also working on hybrids including Toyota, which hopes to have its Prius model in showrooms this summer.

The experts say, though, you won't see electric cars in great numbers anytime soon. Their short range and long charging times make them unattractive to most car buyers. That's why carmakers are now concentrating on these hybrids. They recharge as you drive and never have to be plugged in.

Read more in Cars Of The Future.

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